Writing clear, accurate, engaging and concise photo captions is an essential part of a photojournalist’s job. Kenyan documentary photographer and photojournalist, Georgina Goodwin, shared her formula with us some time back. Here is her advice:
How to write a caption:
This section should include the following:
a.Describe in simple terms what is happening in the image in present tense. This should be the very first thing you describe in a simple precise way.
b.Include the location and date month, date, year.
c.Include a quote if you can name and backstory from the subjects in the image. Do not use acronyms for terms such as ‘IDP’. Use ‘internally displaced person’ so that a wider audience can understand.
How to write the background information:
This is the broader context of the situation depicted in the image. You can use the same background information for a set of images as long as it is current and applicable to the subject matter. You can use past tense to frame this information.
a.Include clear and up to date statistics on numbers and timeframes
b.Summarise the background information into one or two sentences.
c.Always write the background information in the context of a historical archive. For example: Do not write ‘In May 20’000 people fled...’. Instead write ‘in the first two weeks of May 2015, 20’000 people fled...’.
An example of how to write a caption and background information:
© Georgina Goodwin/CNN
Lemoi Nalang’o, 24 from the Kenya National Youth Service stands in line ready to help with extra security at the world first Mr and Ms Albinism Pageant in Nairobi, Kenya, October 21, 2016. “I love my job, it gives me freedom and hope”, says Lemoi.
(Sentence 1: says what the image shows, can include a quote)
The pageant, organised by the Albinism Society of Kenya (ASK), aimed not only to boost the confidence of young people with Albanism but to bring aware to the need to address all violation of their human rights, as well as championing for better medical services in light of the challenges that are characteristic of the condition.
(Sentence 2: backstory)
The National Youth Service is one of the few platforms in Africa where persons with albinism are accepted as equal because in Africa, albinism is associated with many negative misconceptions and superstitions, as a result albinos suffer stigma, alienation and physical abuse.
(Sentence 3: Background story)